Caregivers have to navigate a wide array of ever-changing elderly care issues. From the emotional to the practical, caregiving involves much creative problem solving. Now, we have a pandemic thrown into the mix. Caregivers may be used to facing elderly care issues and crises, but this one is new to us all.
We will share a few stories from families who have faced elderly care issues during the coronavirus pandemic, dealing with new twists on caregiving concerns. They were able to identify solutions, and we hope these may help others who face similar elderly care issues.
Elderly Care Issues from a Distance: Dad Declining
Our Dad is amazing for being in his mid-nineties. Until recently, he continued exercising daily and was totally independent. However, for the past couple years, his memory has been getting worse. He spent time back and forth between his independent living facility (ILF) and his girlfriend’s condo. Even with his failing memory, he managed with the help of his routine and prompts from his girlfriend. We realized perhaps this was becoming a lot for her, though she said it was not when we checked in with her. So, we did start getting some help from caregivers at the facility to check in on him in the mornings and be sure he had taken his medications.
As the coronavirus pandemic flared, Dad and his girlfriend had traveled back to her home. Then, Dad’s ILF went into lockdown. They have not allowed any residents who were not present at that time to return. And, those who are there must stay in their apartments…no group meals, activities, etc. Therefore, Dad cannot return and has been staying at his girlfriends’ for a couple months. Unfortunately, he also began to decline. His doctor previously diagnosed him with small TIAs (likely the source of the cognitive decline). It seems likely he recently had a larger one or some other underlying health issues have caused more significant decline.
We keep in close contact, and we began hearing that he was not getting out of bed. It is so hard to know exactly what is going on from a distance. His girlfriend is not always clear about the situation. She sometimes has her own memory issues. How do you deal with elderly care issues when you can’t be there? And, how do you manage getting an evaluation and help while trying to minimize coronavirus exposure for two high-risk individuals? We had contacts and resources at Dad’s facility and had explored some options, such as the nearby ALF. But, now he was stuck a couple hours away (and across the country from us) where we were starting from scratch.
We contacted a home care agency in the area for a phone consultation. Within a couple days, they were able to send a caregiver out. On the first visit, she wasn’t able to convince Dad to get up but gave him a sponge bath and helped with other tasks. One of us spoke to her at the end of the visit, and then the next day to the agency manager. We felt so reassured to hear how Dad was doing from an outside party with expertise. By the second visit, she got Dad up and gave him a shower. He is now getting up on a regular basis and doing much better. Most importantly, his girlfriend has support.
It has not been all roses. She complains about changes to her routine and home (such as equipment the agency has recommended). However, we can see (and she is starting to) that the caregiver has significantly improved the situation. With their help, we are monitoring the situation and deciding on the next steps as things develop.
COVID-19 in Mom’s Facility: What to Do?
We found out last week that residents in Mom’s assisted living facility had been diagnosed with coronavirus. Throughout this pandemic, our family has been debating whether to bring Mom home with us. I previously visited a few times/week and struggled with not being able to see her. I was furloughed, so I thought perhaps that would allow me to care for Mom at my home, but my brother was hesitant. We didn’t want to jump on the decision as we knew there was a lot to consider. I tossed and turned over this many nights. Then, when I heard two residents had been diagnosed, I was really worried.
Assessing Our Elderly Care Issues and Options
My brother and I decided to contact a care manager to get input about the options. She listened to us and asked a lot of probing questions. It helped us to think about the reasons Mom was living in the facility and lay out a detailed plan of her needs. We decided to have the care manager explore this further and gather information from the facility and Mom’s providers. This helped us get a handle on all of Mom’s current needs. Our care manager discussed how a care plan could be put together to care for her at home. She also helped us talk through concerns and considerations.
When we had a clear picture, I knew it didn’t make the most sense to bring Mom home. My work situation was (hopefully) temporary and then we’d be faced with new challenges. My husband was also an essential worker, so the home was not a completely “safe zone” for an at-risk individual. Though her nursing facility wasn’t either, they were better equipped to handle her daily needs. And, she was familiar with the environment and happy there. We had figured out ways to reconfigure the home to accommodate her with the care manager’s help. However, in this already stressful and disruptive situation, I wondered if this was too much for my family.
The care manager also helped us assess the risk at the facility. The two residents had both been hospitalized and staff and residents had been extensively tested. It appeared that the virus had not spread, and the facility had isolation measures in place.
Mom had a private caregiver who visited weekly, coordinated by the care manager. So, our care manager suggested some solutions to our concerns using the caregiver’s help. We increased the frequency of her visits. This provided Mom socialization she was missing with isolation. She brings some extra groceries and treats for Mom now too since she can’t go out with us. We feel reassured by her visits. In addition, she helped us set up an Echo Show in Mom’s apartment. She used this to video call us when she was there. Now, Mom is able to take our calls and we get a visual check and interaction that a regular phone call just didn’t provide.
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Unexpected Elderly Care Issues: When Mom’s Helper (That’s Me!) Came Down with Coronavirus
I live in the same neighborhood as my elderly mother. Before the coronavirus crisis, I visited her daily. I helped her with errands, household chores and checked on her safety. As the virus began spreading, I didn’t want to put Mom at greater risk. So, we adapted. I went shopping for her and dropped off her groceries. We visited at a safe distance. I figured some of the chores could wait, though I worried about how she was faring.
Unfortunately, I got sick with COVID-19. I’m so glad we had been extra cautious and Mom did not get sick. But, what to do now? I could barely care for myself, let alone help Mom. My husband was busy helping me and trying to avoid getting ill.
Helpers for the Helper
Late last year, I had minor surgery and we got some respite care help for Mom. This turned out to be a blessing. I gave my husband the contact information and he connected with the home care company. Since Mom was a recent client, they knew her needs. They helped us set up some remote services to support Mom, and brought back her previous caregiver to check on her and help with things at the house once/week.
It was a huge relief knowing they were taking care of her. Some days, I barely got out of bed so we definitely needed all the help we could get. Actually, I wish I had called them at the beginning of this crisis.
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